Russia has seized over twenty tons of R-22 imported in boxes of R-134a. R-22 was banned by the Montreal Protocol in 2010 and is scheduled to be phased out across the world by 2020. The production and importation of R-22 is strictly regulated and persons can face serious consequences if they do not abide by their country’s laws when it comes to importing R-22. In Russia it was decided that the production within the country would be enough quantity to handle the market so the Russian government banned all imports of R-22.
Whoever did this was looking to make a lot of money fast. Since R-22 was banned the price has sky rocketed to about $300 a cylinder. The product that Russian authorities found came from China where the price of R-22 is around $50 a cylinder. Obviously, you can see the temptation here. This smuggler brought in an entire trailerload of R-22, so you’re looking at twenty pallets of forty cylinders each, or 800 cylinders. 800 cylinders at $250 profit a cylinder and you’re looking at $200,000 profit. Not too shabby if I say so myself… but I don’t have much sympathy for the person who imported this in. They knew they were breaking the law and attempted to disguise the product as Ozone friendly R-134a. They saw the dollar signs and not the repercussions.
I’m not sure what tipped off the Russian authorities, or if this was a random check, but good for them on catching it. The whole point of banning R-22 was due to it’s harmful affects on the Ozone layer. Smuggling in R-22 to make large profits is not looking at the big picture. This does lead to the question of how many illegal imports of R-22 are not found in Russia, and if it is happening in Russia it is most definitely happening in the United States. Perpetrators of illegal importing can face substantial fines and even jail time under the Clean Air Act. They know what they are doing is wrong yet they still do it. (Why else would you disguise it as R-134a?)
Hopefully customs agents catch more of these in the future and deter smugglers from trying this again.
Well folks it looks like the automotive refrigerant market is going to be split into two. Today, most everybody is still using R-134a as the main refrigerant for automotive applications. If you have been working on newer cars you may have seen some vehicles with the HFO 1234YF systems. R-134a is being phased out across the world due to it’s high global warming potential of over 1,000. In the European Union R-134a was banned in the year of 2011. All new cars manufactured in Europe have to be using a refrigerant with a Global Warming Potential of less than 150.
The European Union chose the HFO 1234YF as it’s primary replacement and it’s not just Europe that is switching over to the HFO. General Motors announced that all of it’s vehicles will be switching over to 1234YF with a goal date of 2018. Chrysler announced that they would be switching over as well. Not to mention various other foreign manufactures. It seems like HoneyWell, DuPont, and the all of the major manufacturers are pushing for 1234YF. After all, it is a viable alternative to the harmful 134a being used today… or is it?
Germany Automakers Warn Against 1234YF
Remember how I said almost every automotive manufacturer is switching over to 1234YF? Well, I did say almost. The German manufacturers Daimler and now Volkswagen have declared that they will NOT be using 1234YF in any of their vehicles. Their reasoning stems from some tests that Daimler did in 2012 testing the safety of 1234YF. In two-thirds of the tests that Daimler conducted the 1234YF refrigerant ignited when the compressor ruptured and the refrigerant gas hit the hot engine. This test is designed to simulate a head on collision. When Daimler did the same tests with R-134a the refrigerant did not ignite. You can read more about this by clicking on this link to Daimler’s website. On top of the flammability Daimler also found that the refrigerant can emit toxic hydrogen fluoride gas when it burns. So, your car will be on fire and you’ll be choking to death. Good times…
After these tests were completed the German Transit Authority did it’s own tests but they were not able to replicate the results that Daimler had. On top of that the European Union did additional tests as well as DuPont and Honeywell. All tests came back negative. Daimler didn’t care about these other tests and claimed that they will NOT be using 1234YF in any of their vehicles. Instead, Daimler went forward on designing a CO2, or R-744, refrigerant system for their vehicles. On top of Daimler switching to CO2 it was announced this week that Volkswagen will be transitioning over to CO2 instead of 1234YF. The official article is in German, so I’ll post a small article from The Cooling Post about the announcement.
Well, with Daimler, Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi, and BMW all switching over to CO2 and the rest of the world using 1234YF we now have a split in the automotive air conditioning market. So, if you’re a mechanic and occasionally work on German cars you are now going to have to know your way around 134a systems, 1234YF systems, and CO2 systems. Obviously, this is inconvenient for everybody, but I can’t really complain as the German automakers firmly believe that they are making the right decision here. If I saw the tests that they had I would probably be pushing for CO2 as well. At the same time though, there have been hundreds of other tests that showed the refrigerant works fine. Are the German companies being stubborn, or is there legitimate concern?
The automotive air conditioning market is in a state of flux right now. 134a is banned in the European Union but still active in the US. The EU has switched over to 1234YF except for Germany who has switched to CO2. The USA is still majorly using 134a and slowly moving over to 1234YF. Asian markets are moving to 1234YF as well. The tide is with 1234YF but who knows what will happen. All it takes is one or tow bad accidents with 1234YF to prove Germany was right.
A few days ago I did a post about how CO2, or R-744, is making a comeback in recent years and is being widely used in vending machines as well as other units. Well, keeping with the trend of alternative refrigerants the Environmental Protection Agency recently approved the use of propane, or R-290, as a refrigerant in refrigerators, freezers, vending machines, and small room air conditioners in both the residential and commercial markets.
Propane has zero Ozone Depletion Potential, or ODP.
Propane’s Global Warming Potential, or GWP, is 3. For reference, R-410A has a GWP of 1725.
Great thermodynamic properties which leads to high efficiency and low operating cost to consumers.
Low charges allowing smaller heat exchangers and piping.
Low toxicity to technicians/consumers.
You can vent Propane.
Yes, that’s right you are eligible to vent propane into the environment. The EPA has seen no detriment to venting propane refrigerant.
Hmmm… I wonder what the con of using Propane as a refrigerant could be. Should I poll the audience? Yes… Yes… Oh, I have it! IT’S EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE!!!
Handling and maintaining a unit with R290 requires the utmost safety and knowledge on how the system and the refrigerant work with each other. (Also, don’t smoke while working on a unit….) It seems that as the market moves more and more towards climate friendly refrigerants the industry is getting more and more specialized. I’m not sure how I feel about this as the pay for technicians will become quite higher over the years but it also will make it difficult for new technicians to come into the market. It’s similar to how the automotive technician job has been going lately. I have a feeling in twenty or so years technicians will be as respected as doctors or pharmacists. They may even have to go to school for as long just to learn all of the technology.
Another con of using R290 is that it is not recommended to retrofit a system over to propane as the majority of the system will have to be swapped out. If your customer is interested in a propane unit I would recommend replacing the existing unit entirely rather than retrofitting. This will prevent you the hassle of doing the retrofit and the remove the chance of missing a step when switching the unit over.
Guidelines for Use of R290
I was searching online for some guidelines and tips on how to utilize R-290 and came across a few great resources for you to review:
CO2 The Natural Refrigerant Gaining Popularity… Again.
Well ladies and gentlemen it seems that we have come full circle in the past hundred years on refrigerants. We started with CO2 and now we’re circling right back to it. Every time I’m writing one of these articles about phasing out refrigerants I can’t help but chuckle. It seems that whenever we get close to the ‘perfect’ refrigerant something is found wrong with it. Either it depletes the Ozone, it has a high global warming potential, or it’s too flammable.
R-744 refrigerant, or CO2, was one of the first refrigerants invented and widely used in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We were using CO2 even before R-12 Refrigerant was invented. The idea of using CO2 as a refrigerant dates back to the 1850s and the first legitimate patent on CO2 was all the way back in 1867 Thaddeus S.C. Lowe.
The idea was picked up again in Germany in the 1890s when Franz Windhausen of Germany designed the first carbon dioxide compressor and his design was purchased by J&E Hall of Great Britain. Here it began to see widespread use on cargo ships throughout Europe. In America CO2 saw widespread use as well in ice machines, ships, and entertainment venues. Even the first movie theaters in the 1920s were cooled with CO2 refrigerants.
R-744 was eventually phased out due to two main reasons:
The Great Depression played a big part in the phase out of R-744. Refrigeration became a luxury that a lot of people just could not afford and the demand crashed.
R-744 is notoriously high pressure. Unfortunately, the technology in the early 20th century just wasn’t there to keep the CO2 equipment running smoothly. The new R-12 Refrigerant was the easier choice as it did not have the high pressure complications that CO2 did.
CO2 is Coming Back!
I’ve been watching the refrigeration industry over the past year and I am definitely seeing the trend of CO2 making a resurgence. The reason we’re seeing this is mainly due to the phase outs of refrigerants in the late 20th century and the early 21st century.
First we phased out the CFCs and HCFCs due to their ODP, or Ozone Depletion Potential. These were phased across the world in accordance to the Montreal Protocol and the world transitioned over to HFC refrigerants such as R-404A, R-410A, and R-134a.
Well now it’s been found that HFC refrigerants have an extremely high Global Warming Potential. So, now that we’ve spent all this time switching everybody over to the HFCs there is now a push to phase out the HFCs. The question is what is going to replace the HFCs?
There are many companies and experts suggesting various refrigerants and alternatives and one of those alternatives happens to be CO2.
Benefits and Drawbacks of CO2
CO2 offers a variety of benefits when comparing it to the refrigerants that are in use today:
No Ozone depletion potential.
Global Warming Potential is 1. (R-134a is over 1,000)
Far more efficient than other refrigerants.
Save everybody some money on their energy bills!
Now, I am not an expert here but the only drawback that I can see on CO2 systems is that is a very high pressure refrigerant. Back in the day this caused a lot of parts to fail and fail often. However, I believe in the 21st century that we have the technology to utilize CO2 and to do it safely. Keep in mind that you will need specially designed systems to handle CO2.
So, Who’s Using CO2 Now?
I’ve found quite a few articles on recent CO2 usage and I even found a website specifically dedicated to CO2 that can be found here http://r744.com.
I won’t go into detail about EVERY company that is using CO2 but here are some examples:
CO2 is used during the transportation/storage of ice cream and as most of you may know ‘Dry Ice,’ is CO2 in solid form.
Coca-Cola announced a few years ago that they would be discontinuing all usage of HFCs in their vending machines and would be transitioning over R-744.
Now, Coca-Cola fell short of their announced goal as you can read here, but as of today they have over 1.4 million CO2 vending machines on the market. This number is only expected to grow and other companies have begun to follow suit.
I found this article the other day detailing the first CO2 ice skating rink in Alaska. Ice skating rinks using CO2 is common place in Canada and is expected to spread in other parts of Alaska.
I can keep listing examples, but I feel that this gives a taste of what’s to come with CO2.
CO2 versus HFOs?
Besides CO2 one of the other alternative refrigerants that is coming to market are the HFOs produced by DuPont and Honeywell. I won’t get too deep into this but I have a feeling that as time goes on we’re going to see a ‘war’ between CO2 and it’s HFO counterparts. Are we going to be using 1234YF in our automobiles five years from now or will we be using CO2? How about for our super markets? Even residential? At this point it’s too early to tell what’s going to happen but it is exciting to see the innovation that is coming to the market.
As I stated in the beginning of this post it feels like we’ve gone in full circle…. and maybe that was how it was supposed to go. With this industry it feels like it’s impossible to predict anything. Regardless, CO2 is coming back and you best be ready!
There are two main types of refrigeration certifications in the United States 608 and 609. I will cover both in this post as well as explain what each one is and when it is necessary.
I am going to start with 609 certification as it is the ‘simpler’ one. 609 comes into play when you are working on an automotive air conditioning application and ONLY when you are working on an automotive application. If you wish to work on other AC units you will need to obtain your 608 certification as well. Once you have 609 certification you can purchase, handle, and install refrigerants into automotive applications. Mainly you will be dealing R134a and 1234YF. You may deal with R-12 here and there but now a days an R-12 system is pretty rare.
It is important to note that if the vehicle you are working on has refrigerated cargo as well a air conditioner for the cab you will be able to work in the cab air conditioner but NOT able to work on the refrigerated cargo system. If you wish to work on the cargo unit of the vehicle you will need to obtain 608 certification as well as 609. Examples of this would be freezer trucks, refrigerated vans, and Carrier/ThermoKing units.
608 is where things get a little bit more complicated and where the ‘meat and potatoes,’ of air conditioning is. If you’re going to be working on anything other than vehicles than you need your 608. 608 comes in four different types of EPA level certification.
Core Test – The core test is necessary for all technicians to take rather you are going for sections 1, 2, or 3.
Type 1 608 Certification – This covers small appliances that are manufactured, charged, and hermetically sealed with five pounds or less of refrigerants.
Type 2 608 Certification – This covers high pressure and very high pressure appliances. Some example high pressure refrigerants are as follows: R-12, R-22, R-114, R-500, and R-502.
Type 3 608 Certification – This covers low pressure appliances with some example refrigerants being R-11, R-113, and R-123.
Universal Certification – Just as it sounds a universal certification can be obtained by passing certification for all types 1, 2, and 3.
609 certification can be taken online and you can find multiple places to take by browsing through Google. Expect to pay around $20.00 in order to take the test. The charge is pretty standard, I’ve seen anywhere between $15-$20 for 609 testing. Again, this test can be done in person with your employer, community college, or a trade school.
There are many many many study guides that can be found online or in book stores. Below are just a few that I found on Amazon:
Why Do I Need to be Certified?
The reason for certification goes back to when the Montreal Protocol was formed in the 1980s. The Montreal Protocol was a joint agreement across many countries with a goal to stop the hole in the O-Zone layer from spreading and to eventually repair the hole. Many chemicals were found to cause damage to the O-Zone and one of these chemicals was Chlorine. Chlorine was one of the main ingredients in CFC/HCFCs refrigerants such as R-12 and R-22.
So, if you are working on an AC unit and you accidentally vent refrigerant into the atmosphere you just caused damage to the O-Zone layer and you just violated the Clean Air Act and the EPA now hates you. In all seriousness though, you can be fined or even sent to jail for purposefully violating the Clean Air Act. The EPA wants to minimize the amount of people who have contact with refrigerants and they do this buy requiring certification before you can legally work with them.
Excluding the environmental impact of refrigerants, certification just makes sense. Refrigerants can be dangerous, especially to a laymen. mix-matching wrong pats, refrigerant burns, and flammability are all some examples of what can go wrong when dealing with air conditioning units.
If you are in the HVAC industry get certified! If you are on the automotive side I wouldn’t worry too much about getting your 608 but you will need your 609 to be compliant. If you’re working on other units I would recommend just going for the universal certification just so you don’t limit yourself to what units you can work on and which ones you can’t.
Are you ready? We’re already into March and it’s just a few more months until the heat kicks in. I’m hoping for a hot, hot, hot summer. The more heat the better business is!
Personally, I just installed a new R-410A unit and kicked out my old R-22. I’m anxious to see what kind of energy savings I am going to see this year versus my R-22 system. I also got a new blower installed and definitely feel the difference. No better feeling than turning on that new unit!
Refrigerants are a commodity. Prices go up and down every week and you never know when a big spike in price is coming. So, with that in mind I say BUY NOW! Why? Well, the heat hasn’t hit the country yet and when the heat hits is when the prices start to climb. A few summers ago R-134a was going for about $70 a cylinder in early spring and it jumped all the way over $200 a cylinder in late July early August.
I’m pretty excited as this will be my first full season with the RefrigerantShopper website up and running. ( I started it in August of last year.) My goal with the website is to making shopping for refrigerants easy and affordable while also providing industry updates and news.
We have cylinders at a time through our Amazon and E-Bay partners and we also have bulk pallet quantities available through our various refrigerant distributors. Are you looking for a pallet? Well visit our bulk purchasing page and we will forward your information on to our distributors and they will then reach out to you. You make the decision on who you want to order from.
Over the past few months I have been working on my search engine rank in Google and Bing with the goal of being to be on the first page of results for any type of refrigerant. It is a long process but I am slowly getting there and am ranking well with R-404A and R-410A. The more content that is available the better your site ranks, so I have been working tirelessly to produce as much content as I can for the industry. I’ve learned a lot through the process as well. Just yesterday I was found over fifty times just through Google’s search engine, so it is working!
A new feature that I have added to the website is our ‘Preferred Partners,’ program. Preferred Partners offers your refrigerant distribution company the ability to partner with RefrigerantShopper.com. Partnership comes with the following perks:
It seems like everyone is just getting used to R-410A from the 2010 switch over from R-22. Well, now 410A could be on the chopping block.
R-22 was phased out due to it damaging the O-Zone, while 410A does not damage the O-Zone it does have a very high Global Warming Potential. The GWP of 410A is a significant contributor to climate change and there is a big push across the world to phase out HFCs including 410A.
Now, 4101A is NOT being phased out… yet. The only steps that have been taken are strictly voluntary. However, in 2014 the three North American countries lobbied for an amendment to be added to the Montreal Protocol which would phase out all HFCs across the world. This would include R-134a, R-404A, and R-410A. The amendment has not been approved yet but I feel that it will be approved sometime in 2015.
Properties of HFC-32
I found a great detailed report that shows pros and cons as well as properties, tests, and other great information about HFC-32 versus R-410A. Ten pages worth of data!
A snippet of the article that I thought was worth reading was the pros and cons of HFC-32 versus 410:
“The relative merits of R32 can be summarized based on a comparison of theoretical properties as shown in Table 1 :
Considerably lower refrigerant cost than R410A and potentially better affordability
Available now in high volumes globally since it is 50% of R410A composition
8% higher critical temperature, better performance at higher ambient conditions
Similar pressure and pressure ratio, a close drop in replacement for R410A without major system redesign
9% lower liquid density, lower system charge requirement
28% lower vapor density and lower system mass flow rate, about 50% lower pressure drop expected
Higher volumetric capacity despite the 28% lower mass flow due to 4350% higher latent heat
41% higher liquid thermal conductivity, higher heat transfer coefficient at same mass flux
No glide and potential to optimize heat exchanger with smaller tube volume for further charge reduction
The disadvantages are cited below:
A2L mild flammability rating (difficult to find a
LowGWP A1 nonflammable fluid)
higher compressor discharge temperature from higher vapor specific heat
New oil likely required since existing polyolester (POE) oil is not miscible with R32″
Is HFC-32 the Future?
The main push for new refrigerants is to lower the overall Global Warming Potential that refrigerants have on the environment. HFC-32’s Global Warming Potential is 675 compared to R-410A’s GWP of 1,725. While 675 is not an ideal GWP it is quite lower than 410A. Couple that with widespread use of HFC-32 in Asian countries, including Japan, and I could definitely foresee the United States transitioning over to R-32. (HFC-32)
The Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP program approved five new alternative refrigerants at the end of February 2015. These newly approved chemicals will provide alternatives to the high global warming potential HFCs that are currently on the market today.
Before I get too far into what refrigerants are now available for use I’d first like to take a moment and do a quick overview of the EPA’s SNAP program.
What is SNAP?
SNAP, or Significant New Alternatives Policy, is a program whose goal it is to evaluate and regulate substitutes for O-Zone depleting chemicals. In the refrigeration industry this was mainly targeting CFC or HCFCs. (Mainly R-12 and R-22) In the beginning of phasing out CFCs/HCFCs we began using HFCs in their place. The problem with this was that HFCs while they do not harm the O-Zone they have a EXTREMELY high global warming potential and contribute significantly to Global Warming.
There is now a big push to find substitutes for HFCs. At this time there is not a ‘go to’ replacement for HFCs but many companies are working hard to find the perfect solution. There are some who are leaning towards HFO refrigerants, or Hydrofluroolefins. At this time HFOs are mainly being used for automotive applications but they may expand into other applications and may eventually replace R-404A as well as 134a.
The Environmental Protection Agency and their SNAP program are charged to publish lists of acceptable and unacceptable refrigerants. For example, the EPA ruled in favor of HFO refrigerants being used in motor vehicle air conditioning in May, 21st 2012. (Link to all of their approvals can be found here.) This approval allowed American manufacturers to begin using the HFO refrigerant in newer models.
In late 2014 the Obama administration has put pressure on the EPA to find suitable alternatives to the high GWP HFCs, and as a result the EPA ruled in favor of five new alternative refrigerants just last week…
“Pursuant to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Significant New Alternatives Policy program, this action lists five flammable refrigerants as acceptable substitutes, subject to use conditions, in several end-uses: household refrigerators and freezers, stand-alone retail food refrigeration equipment, very low temperature refrigeration, non- mechanical heat transfer, vending machines, and room air conditioning units. This action also exempts from Clean Air Act Section 608’s prohibit on on venting, release, or disposal the four hydrocarbon refrigerant substitutes listed in this action as acceptable, subject to use conditions, in specific end-uses. We are finalizing this exemption for those substitutes, subject to those use conditions and in those end-uses, on the basis of current evidence that their venting, release, or disposal does not pose a threat to the environment.”
So, taking from the above statement we learn that this mainly orientated towards smaller units such as refrigerators, freezers, and single room air conditioners. I do not believe there is a mainstream substitute for 410A but I would imagine it is under development as we speak. These new refrigerants seem to be mainly targeting the 404A market.
What are the New Refrigerants?
The new accepted refrigerants are as follows:
Ethane -Ethane has a very low temperature refrigeration and non-mechanical heat transfer. It has been ruled as acceptable for use in room air conditioners for residential and light commercial air conditioning.
Isobutane – (Also referred to as R-600a.) It is now acceptable for substitute use in retail food refrigeration units. It is important to note that this refrigerant should only be used in new stand alone refrigeration equipment only.
Propane – (Also known as R-290.) Propane is now accepted in use in residential and light commercial air conditioners for room AC units and portable AC units designed for a single room. Again, please note that this can only be used in new units.
R-441A – 441A has been approved for use in retail food refrigeration, vending machines, and single room AC units.
HFC-32 -HFC32 has also been approved for use in retail refrigeration, vending machines, and single room units.
These newly approved refrigerants are a Hydro Carbon blend. Hydrocarbons are known to be extremely flammable. There was some debate on approving these new refrigerants due to their flammability factor. If handled incorrectly it could lead to serious harm or death to a technician or operator. So, these refrigerants have a very low or non-existent global warming potential you should be aware of their risk. Only fully trained technicians should deal with units that contain these refrigerants.
Quick excerpt from the EPA’s website about flammable refrigerants:
“DANGER—Risk of Fire or Explosion. Flammable Refrigerant Used. Do Not Use Mechanical Devices To Defrost Refrigerator. Do Not Puncture Refrigerant Tubing.” This marking must be provided on or near any evaporators that can be contacted by the consumer.”
I don’t know about you… but this seems dangerous.
While these refrigerants are new to the United States they are being used successfully in Europe and Asian markets. It’s rare that the EPA likes to be the first to try a new refrigerant… it seems we usually leave it other countries to give it a trial run. If it looks good then we approve it. (Nothing wrong with that either, seems like a smart move… Let them do the work first.)
Now, I’m not sure if these refrigerants will take off and be the new standard. I have a feeling the flammability risk on these will scare a lot of people off… but who knows we may be looking at a turning point in the industry.
There are a variety of refrigerant wholesalers throughout the United States. The question is, which ones should you buy from? Who’s providing the best product for the best value? I have complied a list of all of the major distributors that I am aware of throughout the United States. Now, I may have missed some but this list should still highlight the key players in 2015. Please note that most of these distributors ship in pallet quantities only. (40 jugs on one pallet)
A-Gas was founded over twenty years ago and is now a global distributor of refrigeration. They have facilities on five continents and just recently purchased the companies known as CoolGas and RemTec International. CoolGas was founded in 1994 and is now one of the largest distributors in the United States. The new partnership between CoolGas and A-Gas will provide better coverage and service to their customers in 2015. I’ve dealt with CoolGas in the past and have had nothing but good experiences.
Refrigerant Depot, formerly known as Automart Wholesale, was founded in 1995. They are based out of Orlando and provide very competitive pricing on pallets nationwide. All of their products are produced in the United States by major manufacturers. I’ve bought from these guys in the past and have had no issues.
Weitron is a worldwide distributor of refrigerants. They were founded in 1992 in Maryland and have since expanded to supplying locations all over the United States and globally. Weitron is committed to quality product and great customer service. Again, I’ve bought from Weitron in the past and did not have any issues or complaints.
Refrigerants Inc was founded in 1997 and have now expanded to three hub locations across the United States. Their locations in Denver, Omaha, and Chicago provide same or next day shipping to most areas of the United States. Customer sanctification is their goal and they work to earn their customers.
Altair was founded in 1991 as an importer of industrial chemicals and have expanded to other chemicals, refrigeration ,and oils. Altair is committed to providing the best quality products as well as the most competitive price. Altair prides itself on it’s numerous international connections and breadth.
Hudson Technologies is one of the larger distributors in the United States. They hold many patents in the refrigeration industry and claim to be one of the biggest reclamation companies in the country. They offer ON-SITE refrigeration services no matter where you are in the country.
I am sure everyone had heard of JohnStone Supply. They are one of the leaders in HVAC distribution, not just in refrigerants but in all manners of tools, parts, and accessories. JohnStone was founded way back in 1953 and is now a recognized name throughout the HVAC industry. They average over $1.5 billion in sales and growing. They are the go to for a large portion of HVAC contractors.
AirGas Refrigerants is another one of the larger distributors in the country. Some of you may have heard of a company called ‘Refron Refrigerants.’ I used to buy from these guys about ten years ago but they were acquired in 2008 by AirGas. This allowed AirGas to have the industry experience and Refron to have the financial backing of a larger company such as AirGas. This is a great company and they will even ship in less than pallet quantities. Only thing I can say is back when I bought from Refron I’d get a nice tie every year for Christmas… they stopped doing that after the acquisition! I miss those ties! I bought from these guys back in 2013 when I had my online business, they were very helpful and I had no issues with product quality.
Yes, of course Chinese product is available… but it is tough to know exactly what product you are getting if you decide to import product yourself. Manufacturing refrigerant is complex and some imported refrigerants will not have the exact same chemical formula as locally made product. Now, this could be due to ignorance or the exporting company trying to get their cost as low as possible. Some of these concoctions are harmless but others can result in increased flammability which could lead to injury to you or technicians. Best advice I can give is to do your research and to know exactly what you are getting.
As you can see there are A LOT of refrigerant distributors throughout the country and I know that I have missed some. If you know of some companies that I missed let me know and I will get them added to this listing. My attempt was to make this as unbiased as possible and to just provide a listing of possible vendors for your company.
One thing to mention is that if your company is big enough you should try contacting the manufacturers and attempt to setup a direct program with them. This will save your company money and you have one less channel to go through. (Manufacturers include HoneyWell, DuPont, an MexiChem here in the United States.)
Chances are you have heard of most of these companies, but I thought I would do a quick overview on where the majority of your refrigerants are being manufactured. The big three are DuPont, HoneyWell, and MexiChem. Of course there are other manufacturers out there as well as hundreds of import product available but if you are looking for quality and safe refrigerant blends these are the brands that you want to purchase.
DuPont is the inventor of refrigerant as we know it today. Back in the 1920s a research team was formed at General Motors and DuPont to find a replacement for the dangerous refrigerants that were in use at the time. A few years later the partnership came up with chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs. CFCs would go on to become the primary type of refrigerant for the rest of the twentieth century. Since then DuPont has always played a role in developing, innovating, and manufacturing refrigerants of all various types.
In recent history DuPont announced that it will be creating a new company that is completely separate from the DuPont name/company. The new company is called ‘The Chemours Company.’Chemours went live in 2015 and now all titanium dioxide, fluro products (refrigerants) , and chemical solutions will be manufactured, produced, and distributed by the Chemours Company. I don’t foresee this changing much as DuPont has been broken into various companies over the years and each one has been successful in it’s own right. The only thing changing is the name on the product.
One point of note is that DuPont prides itself on American made product and all of the product that you buy from them will be guaranteed American made. This is a great selling point if you are going against imported Chinese product.
Honeywell has been around since the 1800s just about as long as DuPont has been in existence. Also like DuPont Honeywell is a household name and a global conglomerate that makes nearly everything you can think of. HoneyWell didn’t start getting into refrigerants until after World War 2 in the 1940s. At the time the company was ‘Allied Chemical Corporation,’ which ended up merging with HoneyWell at a later date. During World War 2 it was realized that the majority of chemical manufacturing took place in Germany and due to the war there were large chemical shortages across the world. Allied Chemical Corporation took it upon themselves to fix this problem.
HoneyWell has always provided great refrigerant product and has formed many partnerships with DuPont to develop new refrigerants as well as joint manufacturing facilities. Not all of Honeywell’s product is American made, but rest assured the product is of great quality and will not disappoint. Over all, great product.
MexiChem is a little less known than the other big players Honeywell and DuPont, but they are definitely worth mentioning. Mexichem formed in 1998 with the merger of various chemical companies and have grown over the past seventeen years to a global presence. Don’t be misled by the 1998 date, they have fifty years of experience in the chemical industry from their various mergers and acquisitions. They are head quartered out of Mexico but have plants across the world as well as the one of the largest plants of 134a refrigerant in the world based in St Gabriel, Louisiana. So, yes… their product is American made.
One important thing to mention about Mexichem is that in late 2013 early 2014 they filed a lawsuit with the International Trade Commission claiming that the imported Chinese refrigerants were being brought in at such low prices that American made product could not compete and resulted in loss of business for American companies. The Chinese can make it cheaper than America AND the Chinese goverment was subsidizing the product to make the price even cheaper to export. (I’ve seen some priced at $40.00 a cylinder!) Mexichem called foul and filed this lawsuit hoping that the trade commission would place tariffs on the imported product which would allow North American companies to compete. I wrote a full article on this earlier this year, click here to read.
In late 2014 the trade commission came out with a ruling opposing Mexichem. No tariffs would be issued as the commission stated that the imported product was not harming the American market. Mexichem was not happy with this ruling and have since appealed the ruling in January of 2015. A decision on the case is expected to be made towards the end of 2015. This is an important case to watch as if the commission rules in favor of Mexichem than the price of 134a could go up thirty or forty percent due to the tariffs being put in place. In 2014 when speculation was going wild on this lawsuit the price of 134a shot up to around $140 a cylinder in mid summer. It has since crashed back to normal pricing but who knows what will happen in 2015.
If you are going to be buying refrigerant soon check to see if it is manufactured by one of these three companies. These guys know what they are doing and you are going to get quality product.
I came across this link today from DuPont’s website and thought I would share. It provides a fact sheet on DuPont’s newly announced Opteon brand for automotive applications. This is the new HFO 1234YF refrigerant that has a very low Global Warming Potential. As it stands today 1234YF will be the refrigerant of the future for all automotive applications. It has a much lower global warming potential than it’s predecessor 134a and it does not contain Chlorine which could harm the O-Zone layer. All in all it sounds like a great alternative to R-134a.
The only bumps in the road on 1234YF have been the flammability risk. There have been numerous independent tests throughout the world and all but one have come back with a very low chance of flammability. Daimler, out of Germany, completed a test that showed that during a collision and under the hot conditions of an engine environment the 1234YF refrigerant did ignite. DuPont and Honeywell both disputed this test by Daimler stating that the test was done in secret and with no third party observation involved. Daimler rejected their claims saying that test was one-hundred percent legitimate and that there was a real danger in using 1234YF. Daimler has been developing and pushing for a Carbon Dioxide refrigerant alternative. Here is a link to an article on Daimler’s site stating their favor of CO2.
Carbon Dioxide refrigerants have not seen high use in recent years but Daimler has spent the past couple years developing a Carbon Dioxide alternative for their vehicles. CO2 refrigerants have a global warming potential of one and it is neither flammable or toxic. The downside of CO2 is that it has to be compressed at very high pressure and today’s air conditioners in vehicles cannot handle the CO2. Completely new air conditioning systems will have to be developed in order for automobiles to be able to take CO2 refrigerants. Daimler is working hard on using a CO2 alternative, but for now they are still using 134a instead of the new 1234yF.
The rest of the world will be using 1234YF while Daimler sticks with their 134A and developing a new CO2 alternative. But, who knows Daimler could be on to something here… is 1234YF dangerous, will Daimler be the savior of the industry with their new CO2 refrigerant and systems? Or, will Daimler be left behind while the world converts over to 1234YF?
Counterfeit Refrigerant is a growing problem throughout the world.
Counterfeit Refrigerants – What You Need to Know.
“Manufacturers, importers, and distributors of legal refrigerants, as well as industry trade associations, have stressed the regulatory and safety dangers surrounding counterfeit and illegally imported refrigerants for years. They’re quick to point out that HVACR contractors who have such refrigerants are as guilty as those involved in the creation of such products.” – The prior excerpt is from a DuPont article on Counterfeit refrigerants. (Full article is here.)
Counterfeit refrigerants are no joke if you, or your company have purchased, sold, or used counterfeit refrigerants you are at risk of being investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, and even the United States Customs Service as well if you imported the product. If your company is found to have purchased counterfeit product you could face confiscation of your product, fines to you and your company, and potentially even jail time.
What is the Big Deal?
Counterfeit refrigerants may not seem like such a big deal to the John Doe on the street but there are real and legitimate reasons the United States government, and others around the world, are combating these illegal refrigerants. Below is a short list of some of the dangers and risk these products have:
The number one risk is safety! Whoever are making these refrigerants do it as cheaply as possible and that means that they do not use the proper chemical compositions. For example, R-134a counterfeits have been found to contain traces of R-40. R-40 reacts adversely with the aluminum inside HVAC systems and generates highly toxic and volatile compounds. Exposure to air on a contaminated system could result in toxic gas being leaked or even cause an explosionof the entire unit. Sadly, there have been fatalitiesfrom these illegal refrigerants.
These refrigerants could contain portions of the previously banned CFC refrigerants. CFCs were completely phased out due to the effect that they had on the O-Zone layer. Today, the O-Zone is expected to be fully repaired by the year 2045. Using counterfeits with CFCs will erase the gains that the world has seen on the O-Zone layer. The EPA takes this very seriously and you could face jail time for importing illegal R-22.
Again, these refrigerants are made as cheaply as possible and without the proper chemical composition. That means the HVAC unit that you’ll be putting this product into will have more mechanical failures than normal and after continued use may damage the unit beyond repair.
What Types of Refrigerant are Most Susceptible?
In the beginning it was mostly R-134a that saw the most counterfeit hit the market. Production and use was centered mainly around eastern Asia but soon the products began to export and make it’s way over to Europe and eventually America. Over the years the product has now branched out to other HCFCs including R-410A and R-404A.
Another point worth mentioning is importing R-22 without having the proper licenses and approvals from the Environmental Protection Agency is treated the same if not harsher as importing counterfeit refrigerant. R-22 is a CFC and it damages the O-Zone. It was phased out in 2010 but some people are trying to make a quick buck and buying up Chinese product to secretly import in the United States. It makes sense as you can most likely get a jug of R-22 for $60-80 a cylinder in China and turn around and sell it in America for $300 a jug. Is it really worth the risk though? I think not.
How can I Tell if I Have Counterfeit Product?
Now, I am not the most technical person in the world but I found a great article that was released called the ‘White Paper.’ The White Paper was released by the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute in late 2013. (Yes, it’s old… but it still provides relevant information.) The White Paper provides a how to guide on how to identify counterfeit refrigerants as well as the dangers of having a system contaminated with them. The full article can be found by clinking here.
Below are Some Steps to Avoid Counterfeit Refrigerants:
Price – If the pricing you are quoted seems to good to be true… it probably is. Just in the past couple weeks I saw R-134a being quoted at $58 a cylinder. Take a kook online and get quotes from other suppliers. You’ll quickly find out that the market right now is between $70 and low $80s. $58 seems crazy low and is obviously imported Chinese product. Not all imports are bad, but it is worth asking the question is this legal or counterfeit?
Know your Supplier – How long has your supplier been around? What is their reputation? Can you easily trace back purchases to them? Can you get a hold of them when you need too?
Verify Refrigerant that is in the Cylinder – Verifying refrigerant in the cylinder before use is good practice anyways but it also will allow you catch anything that is off with your product.
Label and Isolate Contaminated Units – Properly contaminate and quarantine all counterfeit product and HVAC units that have been affected.
Now, this isn’t a ‘huge’ problem in the industry… it’s not rampant. But, it is definitely worth mentioning considering the risk to technicians, contractors, and company owners. Do you really want to jeopardize your safety or company to save a few dollars per cylinder? Rule of thumb, if the price on that refrigerant seems too good to be true… it probably is!
Before I can answer that question there is the need to point out that there are a variety of different classes of refrigerants that are on the market today throughout the world. I will be going over the top three classes at this point in time. One thing to note is that yes, refrigerants do cause damage to the O-Zone and they do contribute to global warming… but when you compare them to other global warming contributors you will be shocked at the minimal effect that refrigerants have on today’s environment.
For example, check out the below pie graph from the EPA’s website. Notice anything? I do. One percent. Fluorinated gases contribute just 1% to the greenhouse gas emissions throughout the world. (Keep in mind these are HFCs we are talking about.)
CFC or HCFCs
CFCs, or chloroflurocarbons, were the first refrigerants that saw mainstream use through the world. The first of it’s kind was R-12 that was invented in the early 20th century by General Motors & DuPont. It began widespread usage in the 1920s and was the primary refrigerant for all applications up until the 1950s. During the 50’s an alternative to R-12 called R-22 was introduced. R-22 was easier on the compressors and didn’t require as big of pipes to flow through. This made things easier and also resulted in less part failures.
The problem with R-12 and R-22 is the Chlorine. It was found that in the 1970s that the Earth’s O-Zone layer was depleting above the Arctic. The O-Zone layer is a layer in the Earth’s stratosphere which contains a high concentration of O-Zone. O-Zone is a naturally forming molecule that helps to absorb the sun’s ultraviolet rays. It was found that Chlorine was a leading contributor to the depleting and cause to the hole in the O-Zone layer. A depleted O-Zone would mean more intense ultraviolet rays from the sun resulting in a variety of problems including Global Warming.
In 1987 the Montreal Protocol was announced. The Montreal Protocol is an international treaty across many countries designed to help combat the damaged O-Zone layer. One of it’s initiatives was to phase out CFCs in first world countries, and eventually throughout the world. In 1994 the United States discontinued R-12 in automotive applications. R-12 was replaced with the HFC alternative R-134a. R-134a does not contain Chlorine so it provided a solution to the O-Zone problem. In 2010, in compliance with the Montreal Protocol, the United States announced discontinuation of R-22 in future applications. All new machines would be orientated towards the new HFC R-410A. It’s the same story on this one as well, the 410A does not contain Chlorine.
Did the protocol work? In short, yes. The Montreal Protocol was a huge success throughout the world. It’s often regarded as the most successful international treaty to date. It is expected that the O-Zone layer will return to 1980 levels by the year 2045. But, something else was on the horizon…
In response to the Montreal Protocol companies needed to find an alternative to the widely used CFCs R-12 and R-22. The answer was HFCs. HFCs include R-134a, R-410A, and R-404A. (There are others, but these are the most popular at this time.) The first mainstream use of HFCs began in 1994 when we switched from R-12 over to R-134a in automotive applications. Shortly after we switched from R-502 over to R-404A. Lastly, in 2010 we switched from R-22 over to the HFC R-410A, also known as Puron.
So, we can celebrate now! No more CFCs and Chlorine damaging the O-Zone, right? WRONG. Come to find out HFC refrigerants have a very high GWP, or Global Warming Potential. GWP basically means how much heat a certain product can trap into the atmosphere. For example, Carbon Dioxide has a GWP of 1 and the R-134a HFC refrigerant has a GWP of 1,430. Quite the difference here. A table of refrigerants and their global warming potential can be found by clicking this link to the EPA website. We have a completely new problem to deal with now. Keeping that in mind, I am going to refer to the pie chart that I posted earlier that illustrates that yes, refrigerants are putting greenhouse gases into the environment, but the significance is so small compared to the other offenders. 1%!!!!
Now instead of the O-Zone layer everybody is concerned about HFCs and the greenhouse gases that they are releasing. The European Union has already banned usage of R-134a in all new vehicles and the United States is not too far behind. There were a lot of ‘voluntary’ measures announced in 2014 by the Obama Administration. You can read about those by clicking here. On top of all that the three North American countries have submitted an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that would eventually phase-out all HFCs throughout the world just as the CFCs were done earlier. Nothing has been decided and added to the protocol at this time but it is only a matter of time before it is added. The main opposition countries have begun to make concessions and I feel that over the next year we will see HFCs added to the protocol. R-134a is on the way out and R-404A is being voluntarily phased out as well. R-410A will be coming soon.
Third time’s a charm, right? Well, let’s hope so. To replace the HFCs that are slowly being phased out DuPont and HoneyWell have come out with a new class of refrigerants called HFOs. The first in it’s class is the 1234YF HFO. It is primary designed to replace R-134a. 134a has a GWP of 1,430 and the new 1234YF has a GWP of 4. This is obviously an improvement. HFO does not damage the O-Zone layer and it has a very low Global Warming Potential. The question is… what is going to go wrong with this one? There HAS to be another factor here that someone has not thought of. Don’t get me wrong I am all for having more efficient and cleaner refrigerant but at times it almost seems like we are running in circles chasing our tails. Either way DuPont and HoneyWell along with other companies are diving head into production and distribution of the new HFOs. Many automotive manufacturers have begun the switch as well.
Well, we went from damaged O-Zone layers to Global Warming Potential and Greenhouse Gases. Now we have the HFO alternatives coming to market with very little environmental detriments, or so we believe. Only the future can tell if HFOs are here to stay or if we will phase these out as well.
What is there to watch for in 2015? What product is being phased out? What is being introduced? What new regulations are coming? I followed the industry fairly close in 2014 and have come to the following conclusions on what to look for in 2015. I am by no means the end all say all on the refrigerant market but I feel that I have a pretty good pulse on the industry.
1) R-22 Phase Out for 2015
Everybody already knows that R-22 is being phased out and that it was banned from being used in new machines in 2010. This obviously caused the price of R-22 to sky rocket up to around $300.00 a cylinder. Well in 2010 there was also the regulation that 75% of production and imports of R-22 were to be cut. Basically the market on R-22 shrunk by 3/4 in a year. Well, now in 2015 the number is 90% reduction. This sounds like quite a bit, but it’s really only another 15% reduction from 2010’s number of 75%. Even though it is only 15% the price on R-22 is still going to be climbing. I wouldn’t predict a huge increase in 2015 but keep in mind that the market did just shrink another 15%. The next big change on R-22 is in 2020 when the cut is at 99.5 percent. At that point R-22 will be similar to R-12 where it is extremely difficult to find and could cost upwards of $1,000 a cylinder.
The Montreal Protocol required the U.S. to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 35% below the U.S. baseline cap. As of January 1, 2003, EPA banned production and import of HCFC-141b, the most ozone-destructive HCFC. This action allowed the United States to meet its obligations under the Montreal Protocol. EPA was able to issue 100% of company baseline allowances for production and import of HCFC-22 and HCFC-142b.
January 1, 2010:
The Montreal Protocol requires the U.S. to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 75% below the U.S. baseline. Allowance holders may only produce or import HCFC-22 to service existing equipment. Virgin R-22 may not be used in new equipment. As a result, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system manufacturers may not produce new air conditioners and heat pumps containing R-22.
January 1, 2015:
The Montreal Protocol requires the U.S. to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 90% below the U.S. baseline.
January 1, 2020:
The Montreal Protocol requires the U.S. to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 99.5% below the U.S. baseline. Refrigerant that has been recovered and recycled/reclaimed will be allowed beyond 2020 to service existing systems, but chemical manufacturers will no longer be able to produce R-22 to service existing air conditioners and heat pumps.
2) HFCs are Slowly Being Phased-Out
HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-410a, or R-404a have not been around for a long time but they are already being pushed around the world to be discontinued. The most common of the HFCs, R-134a, was already banned in the European Union in 2011. In fall of 2014 the Obama administration stated that they would be taking actions against HFC refrigerants. These actions would include a variety of voluntarily measures by companies in the United States as well as executive actions directly by Obama. I wrote an article about this in more detail about a month ago, you can find it by clicking here.
One thing to keep in mind is that the push to discontinue HFC refrigerants is not just in the United States and the EU. In 2014 the three North American countries submitted an amendment proposal to the Montreal Protocol to ban HFCs throughout the world. The Montreal Protocol is one of the biggest co-operative country agreement treaty and was originally created to combat the damaged O-Zone layer. One of the regulations in the treaty was to phase out chemicals that contained high amounts of Chlorine as it was found that Chlorine directly damaged the O-Zone layer. Countries in 2014 and 2015 are now pushing to add HFCs to this treaty even though HFCs contain little or no Chlorine. The reason for the push on HFCs boils down to their global warming potential, or GWP. Even though they don’t harm the O-Zone their global warming potential is so high that it is causing excessive amounts of green house gases and is warming the environment at an alarmingly rate.
Now it’s had to say if prices on HFCs are going to be impacted by these measures in the United States. We are still in the early stages and most steps are voluntarily. Nothing is being shoved down our throats so I do not believe the market is threatened at this time. One thing to mention is on R-134a. In 2014 there was a lawsuit filed with the International Trade Commission by Mexi-Chem, a refrigerant manufacturer. This lawsuit was against the Chinese imported 134a cylinders. It basically stated that the imported Chinese product was being brought in at an unfair price due to Chinese government subsidies. Mexi-Chem proposed adding tariffs to the imported product to make it easier for North American manufacturers to compete. The ITC ruled against Mexi-Chem in late 2014 saying that the Chinese imports were not hurting the United States industry. Well, in January of 2015 Mexi-Chem appealed the ruling and are still pushing for tariffs. So, R-134a pricing is very much up in the air for 2015.
3) The Rise of HFOs
Well, since HFCs are being phased out they obviously have to be replaced by something… and that something is HFO refrigerants. The first major HFO that is coming to prominence is the 1234YF R-134a alternative. The main bonus of HFOs is that their global warming potential is hugely lower than their HFC alternatives. For example, R134a has a GWP of 1,320. The replacement for 134a, 1234YF, has a global warming potential of 4. Obviously quite the difference here between the two of them.
HFOs for the most part haven’t had much resistance in being the new main stream refrigerant. The main argument against them is their increased flammability. Most studies have come back saying that there is not a risk using the HFOs and these studies have been completed all over the world. It is not one party doing all of these studies, various independent groups our countries have done studies and have approved it’s usage. (Including the United States Environmental Protection Agency as well as the European Union.) Daimler out of Germany has been one of the resistant voices in the switch over and had completed studies showing that the refrigerant did in fact ignite during a simulated automobile accident. Other companies have not been able to replicate these tests. Germany is still pushing against 1234YF and are more in favor of a Carbon Dioxide refrigerant alternative.
Regardless of what you or I think about HFOs they are the future and will begin showing up in various new machines. Many automobile manufacturers have begun switching production over to 1234YF and HoneyWell & DuPont have opened multiple factories dedicated to HFO production. The demand is coming, are you ready?
R-22 production is now even lower in 2015
HFCs including 134a, 410a, 404a are all on the way out.
HFOs are the future and you will begin hearing about them more and more.
HFO refrigerants, or Hydrofluro-Olefins, are a new class of refrigerants that have a much lessened global warming potential than it’s HFC alternatives. One example being the 134a alternative, 1234YF, which is 335 times lower on the global warming potential scale and only four times higher than standard carbon dioxide.
HFOs are the refrigerant of the future… for now. I say for now because we’ve been through this before. A new refrigerant is introduced and then something is found to be harmful in that chemical and the refrigerant is replaced with a new and better line. Maybe HFOs are the perfect refrigerant, but I have a feeling we’ll be going through this again and sooner rather than later. Let’s keep everyone on their toes…
Honeywell is one of the three big refrigerant manufactures in the world and are the ones to watch for new industry trends. Honeywell announced this week that they have begun production on four new HFO refrigerants under their Solstice brand name. You can view their press release by clicking here. These steps are being taken in accordance to the agreement HoneyWell made with the Obama administration to diminish the use of HFCs and to begin creating alternative refrigerants.
A breakdown of their new refrigerants are shown below:
Honeywell’s new offerings include:
Solstice zd: a nonflammable HFO refrigerant with a GWP equal to 1, for use in low pressure centrifugal chillers, which are most often used to cool large buildings. Trane, a leading air conditioner manufacturer, has already announced that it will use Solstice zd in its new Series E CenTraVac large capacity centrifugal chillers in Europe, the Middle East and other 50hz markets.
Solstice ze: an HFO refrigerant that can be used in equipment that traditionally used R134a (i.e., chillers and refrigeration equipment). Solstice ze offers a GWP of less than 1, which is 99.9 percent lower than the GWP of R134a.
Solstice N13: an HFO blend for chillers, as well as medium-temperature applications such as supermarket display cases and self-contained refrigeration units that require a non-flammable refrigerant solution. Solstice N13 is designed to replace R134a and offers a GWP that is 60 percent lower than the GWP of R134a.
Solstice N40: an HFO blend for low- and medium-temperature refrigeration equipment such as supermarket freezer cases. Solstice N40 is designed to replace HCFC R22 and HFC R404A, and offers a GWP that is 66 percent lower than R404A. In supermarket trials conducted in the U.S. and Europe, Solstice N40 demonstrated three percent lower energy consumption in low-temperature applications and 5 to 16 percent lower energy consumption in medium-temperature applications as compared to R404A.
DuPont’s New Opteon Line
Just as Honeywell has begun producing new HFO refrigerants DuPont is doing the same. They have introduced three new HFO refrigerants and are expecting to introduce many more in the near future. The three new HFOs from DuPont are as follows:
Opteon XP40 – XP40 is designed to replace the 404A HFC refrigerant. This is commonly used in commerical buildings, super markets, and other chillers.
Opteon XP44 – XP44 is also designed to replace 404A but on the refrigerated transport side.
Opteon XP10 – XP10 is DuPont’s replacement for the automotive 134a Refrigerant.
Say Good Bye to HFC’s
It seems like they just got there but HFCs are already being phased out across the world. HFCs were the alternative to the O-Zone damaged CFCs of the 20th century. The R-12 and R-22 CFCs contained high amounts of Chlorine and it was found that Chlorine damaged the O-Zone. So, the CFCs were phased out and replaced with the HFCs which had a substantially lower amount of Chlorine compared to it’s predecessors.
Well, R-134a was banned in the European Union a few years ago and now it is being pushed for voluntary phase out in the United States. Many automobile manufacturers have already begun to switch to the new HFO alternative 1234YF refrigerant. If you were to buy a car from 2014 or 2015 chances are it will be taking the new 1234YF. General Motors has even announced that all of it’s new vehicles will be switched over to 1234YF by 2018.
But, it’s not just the R-134a that is going away. Many companies are working on eliminating R-404A HFC Refrigerant as well. Now, the market on 404A isn’t as HUGE as 134a but it is still substantial to larger commercial buildings, super markets, and even refrigerated trucks. This will still make an impact, but it will be minimal to the 134a switch.
On top of 134a and 404a I noticed that HoneyWell’s N40 brand is designed to be a replacement for 404a AND R-22. You know what that means. Even though everyone has just switched over to R-410A in 2010 it looks like it’s days are already numbered. Now, I have not seen any company actively targeting switching away from 410A but it is worth noting that they are making HFO alternatives. It’s only a matter of time before 410A is added to the list that 134a and 404a are on.
Pricey Pricey Pricey
Are you used to paying around $100 for your 134a cylinders? How about $90 for your 410A? Well, it’s just a little bit different with the new HFOs. And… by a little I mean about five to six times the price that you are currently paying. Now, there are a variety of reasons for the price being so high but I am only going to go into a couple of them.
The first being that since these are new refrigerants the supply is very low and the demand will be increasing… so obviously the price point is going to be high until the market balances out. Secondly, the majority of all the patents on HFOs, including 1234YF, are held by two companies… DuPont and HoneyWell. So, since these formulas are patented DuPont & HoneyWell pretty much have a monopoly on the market. It’s a pretty sweet deal. The world switches away from the harmful HFCs and over the HFOs and then DuPont/HoneyWell get to charge a arm and a leg and nobody can say a damn thing because everybody needs it.
There has been some concern from various companies that the HFO refrigerants have a much higher flammability rate than it’s HFC predecessors. 1234YF’s main opponent is Daimler out of Germany. They did multiple tests in 2012 and found troubling results:
“Daimler carried out a series of additional tests on the new refrigerant as part of a new real-life test scenario developed in-house which goes above and beyond the legally prescribed requirements. In the new real-life test scenario, the refrigerant is dynamically dispersed at high pressure near to hot components of the test vehicle’s exhaust system. This corresponds to a serious head-on collision in which the refrigerant line is severed and the reproducible results demonstrate that refrigerant which is otherwise difficult to ignite under laboratory conditions can indeed prove to be flammable in a hot engine compartment. Similar tests of the current R134a refrigerant did not result in ignition.” Source
There have been many tests across the world from various agencies and they have not been able to replicate this test that Daimler did. 1234YF has been approved by the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency and the European Union for automotive use. It is being the common refrigerant for automotive manufacturers to switch to. Daimler is still against the HFO and is pushing for a new Carbon Dioxide refrigerant alternative.
In conclusion HFOs are coming and coming fast. If you are in the EU you’ve already been dealing with them for years and if you are in the states get ready! The real question is how long will we be using HFOs until a new product comes out? There has been talk about bringing back Carbon Dioxide refrigerants but at this point no one really knows what the future holds.
Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Buy Refrigerant in Bulk
How many of you are buying your refrigerant 410a or R-22 cylinders one, two, or three at a time? Well, I have news for you. STOP! You’re throwing money down the drain!
1) Competitive Pricing Available
Well, this is an obvious one, but you will end up saving quite a bit per cylinder when you buy a pallet of forty cylinders at a time. Depending on where you’ve been buying and who you have been buying from you can save upwards of $5, $10, or even $20 a cylinder. So, doing the math you could potentially save $800.00 by purchasing in pallet quantities rather than individual jugs.
The savings can increase even more if you buy in multiple pallet quantities. Depending on your size, some locations can handle five pallets, some ten, and some even a full trailer load of refrigerant. The savings on trailer load orders can be quite significant to your company. You can also mix and match a trailer load with varying types of refrigerant. You could do 10 pallets of R-22 and 10 pallets of R-410a that way you have your bases covered.
2) Pricing Security and Increased Margins
I mentioned pricing above but another factor to look at is the security in pricing you get when you purchase by the pallet. Refrigerant/Refrigerant is a commodity and the pricing can change in an instant. I’ve seen it jump $30-$40 a cylinder in a week.
You never know when the next big increase is going to hit. Buying in bulk ensures you and your company that your pricing is secure and stable even if the market sky rockets. Not only that, but it also opens up the window of making increased margin when the market goes up. Or, if you are in a bidding situation where every dollar counts you get an edge against the competition with your lower priced refrigerant.
If you are considering buying for pricing security I would highly recommend to buy in the winter months of December or January. The demand is at it’s lowest here in the States at this point in time and you typically will not find a cheaper price throughout the year. In the hottest summer months I have seen prices double R-134a.
3) Peace of Mind
Quite a few contractors do not keep a stock pile of refrigerant on hand, most buy when they need. But, what happens if you have a run on your refrigerant and you realize that your inventory is now depleted? Now you have to go to your supplier and pay an arm and a leg just to get a jug and get you out of a bind.
When buying in bulk you eliminate this potential problem by having a surplus of supply on hand and ready to go. Refrigerant is not going to go ‘bad,’ so if you have some left over from a previous big buy no harm is done. In fact year over year refrigerant pricing goes up, so if you do have old inventory you most likely have a lower cost than everyone else in the market.
4) No Freight Charges for Pallet Deliveries
Did I mention that all pallet orders have freight pre-paid? No more paying shipping costs for smaller orders. We’ll send a truck to your door and drop the product off with not cost to you. If you place an order let us know if you have a loading dock or if you need the truck to have a lift gate.
5) Year End Taxes and Budgets
Most of you who run businesses are familiar with year end and want to pay as little taxes as possible. What better way to minimize your tax payments than to spend some of your profits on future inventory ?
By buying a pallet or two of product right before year end you shrink your tax bill while also having product available for the next year’s business. I know we’re already in January of 2015 but it is definitely something to keep in mind when year end sneaks up this year.
There are a lot of pros to buying refrigerant in bulk to you and your company as listed above and the only con is putting up with the initial investment to bring the product in.
MexiChem Appeals Trade Commission on R-134a Tariffs
Tariffs on R-134a?
I can’t say that I am surprised by this. Most people saw this coming when the international trade commission ruled against MexiChem in the anti-dumping lawsuit on Chinese R-134a in November of 2014. The reader’s digest version of the lawsuit is that MexiChem is claiming that the Chinese R-134a Refrigerant that is being imported to the United States is being brought in at an unfair price. The price point of which it is being brought in makes it so North American manufacturers are either not able to compete or have to drop their margins down to barely anything. The Chinese’s price on 134a is so low because their government subsidies the product to artificially reduce the cost of their refrigerant and to make it easier to export. They then bring it into America at $20, $30, or $40 a jug lower than the American competition. Mexichem proposed to have the federal goverment issue tariffs against the incoming 134a product with hopes that the tariffs would offset the lower price refrigerant and allow North American companies to compete against the Chinese product.
The announcement of MexiChem’s lawsuit in late 2013 caused the price of R-134a refrigerant to sky rocket. I remember buying at about $60-$70 a jug back then and within a couple weeks it jumped up to about $150 a jug. No one knew for sure what was going to happen. Were there going to be tariffs instated on all imported refrigerant? Was this new price in the $100s going to be the industry standard now? Most companies were anxiously awaiting the trade commissions’ ruling.
Well, in November of 2014 the trade commission came out against MexiChem saying that the imported refrigerant does NOT put locally based companies at an unfair advantage in the market place. You can read this ruling by clicking here. Obviously, MexiChem did not like this decision by the trade commission and promised to appeal. Since November it’s been rather quiet, but that was most likely them getting their lawyers ready for the next battle.
Well, it was announced in January 2015 that MexiChem is formally appealing the trade commission’s ruling. An article about the challenge can be found by clicking here. The case is expected to be in front of the trade commission again in about a year from today. I am a little surprised that they are putting so many resources into this appeal considering that 134a will most likely be banned in the next five years or so.
The problem with this appeal is it now causes a whole new wave of uncertainty in the market. For the most part R-134a prices fell back to normal levels as 2014 went on. Now, I am concerned yet again about what the pricing is going to do. We may end up going through this whole debacle again with the price hitting the roof. All because North American companies are complaining about competition. If you are running low on 134a today I would definitely consider looking at buying a pallet or to now before the price jumps again.
I don’t know about you, but I am perfectly fine with the Chinese imports. It provides needed competition to the big companies here in the states and it also provides a better cost to the technicians as well as consumers. Here’s hoping pricing stays stable in 2015.
I’ll be the first to tell you that all of these new regulations and phaseouts in refrigeration have caused major headaches and pains across the air conditioning industry. It seems that about every five to ten years there is a new regulation coming out on Refrigerant either in the United States or abroad. Just a couple years ago R-134a, automotive refrigerant, was completely banned in the European Union and it won’t be long until it’s banned in the United States and R-22 production is being cut by 90% in 2015. (It was cut 75% in 2010)
These phaseouts and regulations all begin back in 1987 when the Montreal Protocol was agreed upon by numerous nations around the world. The protocol was created to prevent any further damage to the O-Zone layer and to eventually heal the O-Zone layer. Chlorine, which is found in CFC refrigerants such as R-12 and R-22, was one of the leading causes to the damaged O-Zone. The approach taken was to phaseout the biggest offenders first and to then move down the list to the smaller chemicals.
The first phase out R-12 Refrigerant that took place in 1994. Before the phase out all cars took R-12 as it’s primary refrigerant, after the phase out automobile manufacturers switched over to the HFC alternative R-134a. This switch caused a lot of pain for technicians and mechanics as they had learn how to handle this new refrigerant as well as how to retrofit older systems that were still taking R-12.
We went through the same process again in 2010 when R-22 was banned in new units and was replaced with R-410A our Puron. R-22/410A is used primarily for home and commercial building units. 410A was a whole new story compared to 134a as it was a higher pressure chemical than it’s predecessor and had to be handled differently as well as have specially designed tools just for it’s application.
Yes, these changes are pain in the ass to all people involved. But, there is also a opportunity here for you or your company. Think about it, you have all of these old units out there that are taking CFC refrigerants. When that customer has a problem with their system this gives you the window to sell either retrofitting his system to accept the new refrigerant, or depending on his current unit, purchasing a whole new system that is compliant with the new regulations. Extra business, anyone?
The more knowledgeable you become on these changes the more opportunities will arise for you or you business. Study the regulations well and look for windows that your company can prosper in. A little unrelated but since the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) passed there have been many companies that have founded with their main purpose to help consumers navigate this new government law/regulation. Entire companies founded based on government regulation . Given, healthcare is on consumer’s minds a lot more than their air conditioners are but the point still stands. Just think about how many R-22 units are out there today. How much do you make on each retrofit? Your happy, the government is happy, and the environment is happy. Even if you don’t agree with the new regulations you really only have two choices either ignore them and let them come up later and bite you, or embrace them and hopefully capture more business because of them.
DuPont & HoneyWell Preparing for the Rise of 1234YF
1234YF’s time has finally come. In 2014 an estimated three million cars on the road are now taking 1234YF refrigerant. In 2015 that number is predicted to climb to seven million. All but one auto manufacturer have switched over from R-134a. R134a has not been banned in the United States, but it’s only a mater of time. It has already been phased out by the European Union and the United States Government has already announced plans to eventually phase out the HFC refrigerant.The days of the 134a in the United States are numbered.
134a is being phased out due to the high global warming potential that it contains. Global warming potential is measured by how much heat a greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere. R-134a’s GWP is measured at over 1,000. It’s replacement, 1234YF, has a global warming potential of less than 1. Quite the difference here, as you can see. If everyone in the world switched over to 1234YF in the next five years there would be a signficant impact on the environment. (In a good way!)
DuPont’s private brand of 1234YF is known as Opteon YF.DuPont has been expecting the increased demand of this low GWP refrigerant and has begun taking steps to increase production and to be able to keep pace with global demand.
Kathryn K. McCord, global business director of DuPont, was quoted as saying: “DuPont is prepared to supply HFO-1234yf, which it sells as DuPont™ Opteon® YF refrigerant, to both automakers and the service industry in the United States and Europe. DuPont was the first company to establish capacity of HFO-1234yf, with sites in China and Japan, and capacity expansions we announced last October are on track. We have sufficient supply to meet our customers’ projected demand, and are prepared to make additional investments when long-term demand justifies it.” As well as, “An extensive distribution network and the availability of equipment enable automakers to adopt this product to comply with the MAC Directive in Europe and to take advantage of greenhouse gas credits in the United States. The industry is moving decidedly toward HFO-1234yf because it offers a range of advantages, including cooling power, energy efficiency, safety, materials compatibility, sustainability and total systems cost effectiveness.”
HoneyWell’s private brand on 1234YF is known as Solstice. Just as DuPont is gearing up production on 1234YF Honeywell announced this week that they have begun full scale production on their Solstice brand of 1234YF. In the fall of 2014 Honeywell was one of the companies that committed to the United States government that they would increase their production of low global warming potential refrigerants and that they would commit to a fifty percent drop in production of high global warming potential refrigerants such as 134a, 410a, and 404a.
It seems that 1234YF will be the go to refrigerant for automobiles for 2015 and for future years to come… that is until they find something wrong with this one as well!
HFCs being added into the Montreal Protocol? It may soon be a reality.
Sneaking HFC Refrigerants into the Montreal Protocol?
The Montreal Protocol
The Montreal Protocol was a treaty signed way back in 1989 by numerous countries in an attempt to slow down and eventually stop the hole that was forming in the O-Zone layer. It’s main objective was to eliminate the amount of Chlorine and Bromine being released into the atmosphere. This was done by coordinating world wide phase out of chemicals and gases that contained these two compounds. When speaking on Refrigerant or refrigerants the first of it’s kind affected was the automotive market when the ‘original’ Refrigerant R-12 was banned in 1994 and replaced with an HFC R-134a. Next up was the residential/commercial buildings with R-22 Refrigerant which was banned in 2010 and had it’s production and imports cut in half in 2015. (In case you weren’t aware R-22 prices are going up this year!) R-22 was replaced with R-410A or Puron. All new machines from 2010 or later will be taking the 410A Refrigerant. There were other refrigerants banned over the years but those two were the major players. The only other one that comes to mind is R-502 refrigerant for your heavier duty applications such as refrigerated transport. 502 was replaced with the HFC R-404A.
The Montreal Protocol treaty has been revised many times over the years to accommodate new technologies and advancements but it’s main objective has always been to reduce harmful chemicals affect on the O-Zone layer. HFC refrigerants do not cause harm to the O-Zone layer in the slightest. What they do have is a VERY high global warming potential by releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. HFCs are the most potent GreenHouse gas in the world today and they are having an effect on the climate… just not an O-Zone affect.
President Obama’s Push to Add HFC Refrigerants
Over the years of President Obama’s presidency one of his main goals was to work on Climate Change or Global Warming. I apologize in advance if partisanship sneaks into this article but I will do my best to remove any biased and just report what is actually happening. With that in mind Obama’s focal point on climate change is tackling HFCs that are currently in use here in the United States and throughout the rest of the world. There are a couple ways that he is going about this. Firstly, United States, Canada, and Mexico have all proposed an amendment to get HFCs added to the Montreal Protocol. Second, Obama has enacted executive actions to combat usage of HFCs. Thirdly, Obama has put pressure on the supply chain of HFCs and companies have made concessions to reduce HFC output/production.
Here is an announcement from the White Houses’ official website detailing the steps that Obama is taking through executive action and through voluntary measures by for profit companies in the United States:
Obama is taking executive actions on Climate Change without congress. I don’t claim to be a legal expert so the only comment I will make is that I prefer congress to be involved rather it be a Democratic or Republican president in office. I’ve never been comfortable with executive actions. The below listing are some of his Executive Actions:
All Federal agencies, buildings, and institutions have been instructed to look for alternatives to HFCs when looking at their refrigeration needs. If you are bidding any government contracts you should definitely push for the HFC alternatives.
Federally owned buildings will be piloting new refrigeration technologies. This will allow companies test their innovative ideas.
The EPA will expand its listing of environmentally friendly HFC alternatives and publish them in their Significant New Alternatives Policy. (SNAP)
The Federal Government will be funding research and development on new HVAC technology and innovations from various companies and scientists.
The government has put pressure on the entire HFC supply chain from the manufacturers here in the United States to the distributors and even to the HVAC contractors.
The industry coalition of companies have agreed to reduce HFC usage and consumption by eighty percent by the year 2050.
There are billions being spent today and over the next ten to twenty years on research and development on a low global warming potential alternative to HFCs. The hope is to have a newer, better, refrigerant for future use. (But, these new refrigerants will probably be phased out in thirty years anyways!)
Coca-Cola has committed that all of it’s new purchases for refrigerant machines and equipment will be HFC free. Coca-Cola is a huge consumer of refrigerant and in 2014 alone they bought 200,000 HFC free units.
Carrier announced that it’s goal is to have all vehicles made in 2020 to be HFC free. (Goodbye R-404A!)
DuPont announced that it would reduce GreenHouse gas content of it’s refrigerants by ninety million tons in the United States and two-hundred and forty-five tons worldwide by the year 2025.
HoneyWell has committed to reduce it’s high global warming potential HFCs by fifty percent by the year 2020. It is doing this buy spending nearly a billion dollars in research and development into lower global warming potential HFCs.
ThermoKing, the transport refrigerant company, announced that it is switching all of it’s new vehicles over to R-404A alternative known as R-452A. R-452A has half the global warming potential as the 404A. ThermoKing is also offering retrofitting for existing vehicles. It is important to to note that at this time it is only available in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Once the new refrigerant has EPA approval it will be in the United States.
As you can see there is quite a bit of action already being taken on the phasing out HFC refrigerants in the United States. But, we are not the only country on board. The European Union has banned the use of the most popular HFC, R-134a, in all automotive production. They have switched over to an alternative refrigerant known as 1234YF. (All except for Germany.) You can read about that switch by clicking here. On top of that the three North American countries submitted an amendment to the Montreal Protocol in May of 2014. The amendment pushed for the official phaseout of all HFCs globally. It was reviewed in November but there was some resistance between major countries that caused the amendment to be put on hold.
India, China, and the Gulf States
Even though North America and Europe are on board with phasing out HFCs the rest of the world was not. By the rest of the world I mean India, China, and the Middle East. Hell, if you add the populations of India and China that’s probably half the world right there! Now there are a few reasons for their opposition to the HFC amendment to the Montreal Protocol:
First things first… The Montreal Protocol was made to prevent damage to the O-Zone layer. HFCs do not cause damage to the O-Zone layer. SO, we’re adding an amendment to the O-Zone treaty that has nothing to do with the O-Zone. India and the Middle East states are calling us on our BS and asking for this amendment to be added to the United Nation’s climate change plan rather than the Montreal Protocol.
Another thing to keep in mind is that for India, China, and the Gulf States in the middle east is that they are all developing countries. Many of their leaders are concerned about the economic impact and the cost of switching all of their citizens over from HFCs to an alternative refrigerant. It was a headache switching everyone from R-22 over to R-410A here in the States. I can’t imagine what it would be like trying to do that in a developing nation like India.
And lastly, another big opposing point is that the United States holds almost all of the patents on these new alternative refrigerants. Works out great for us… but I can understand the other countries hesitation. Price gouging anyone?
With all of that being said it looks like we may have had a breakthrough in the end of 2014. Obama made some deep concessions with China and we were finally able to get them so sign a climate change agreement that included the eventual phase out of HFCs. Here is hoping they push for the amendment as well in the next Climate Summit. It also looks like India is slowly starting to drop it’s opposition. In the last global climate meeting India was surprisingly quiet and did not voice opposition to the amendment. At this point the only countries that are really left opposing are the middle east states and there are only a few left and there days are numbered.
So, in conclusion the world governments, including the United States, are pushing for an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phaseout and eventually ban high global warming potential HFC refrigerants. Even though the Montreal Protocol was specifically designed to combat the damage to the O-Zone and the HFC’s do not harm the O-Zone layer… they’re just going to sneak that in there anyways. There has been resistance, but it is waning and it is just a matter of time before all the HFCs that we know today are completely phased out just like the CFCs of the past.
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